Speed Throughput and Eliminate Islands of Automation

Speed Throughput and Eliminate Islands of Automation

In the last few years, there’s been a growing recognition that manual labor is no longer sufficient to keep up with the accelerating pace of e-commerce. Demands for higher throughput and volume are simply growing too quickly. It’s also not enough to move faster; increases in throughput rates also require more accuracy, not less.

Automation offers obvious solutions to these challenges, so it’s no surprise to see a growing number of distribution centers (DCs) investing in it. But while many are seeing improvements, others feel that their automation solutions are falling short of peak performance. This is typically because they need to increase throughput, have multiple automation systems that don’t integrate smoothly with one another, or both.

In a recent On The Move webinar, we examined the factors that can prevent automation from achieving its full collective throughput and integration potential. We also looked at the advantages to be gained by tackling these challenges head-on with warehouse execution system (WES) software.

“Push” Versus “Pull”

If you’re facing the throughput or integration challenges mentioned above, your organization probably has some level of automation in place already, most likely controlled by warehouse control system (WCS) software, or a similar host system. You might also have warehouse management system (WMS) software to handle inbound and outbound processing, plus inventory and resource management.

This combination works up to a point, but it also has some serious limitations that may be preventing you from operating at peak performance. That’s because most WMS/WCS systems simply push waves of orders through the warehouse as they come. The trouble with this approach is when WCS software is over-fed with shipments, it can easily create a gridlock situation or end up doing non-productive work like recirculating items. At the other end of the spectrum, equipment may sit idle because work isn’t being distributed evenly across your entire facility.

A far more efficient approach, and the one used by the industry’s top-performing operations, is to utilize WES software. Instead of simply trying to “push” as many items as possible through the system, WES takes a “pull” approach, moving items through the warehouse as efficiently as possible. It does this by prioritizing orders and directing your DC’s resources — both people and automation systems — while balancing workflows.

Once inventory is received into the WMS, the WES takes over key aspects of order fulfillment execution by processing incoming orders and providing real-time resource allocation. WES can make decisions based on current order priorities and DC demands while balancing activities across work zones based on available labor, material handling equipment (MHE) and automation systems to avoid bottlenecks and maximize resource allocation.

The Power of Decision Intelligence

Another benefit of WES is its ability to manage system interdependencies. Although these are often overlooked or underestimated, they’re extremely important because a decision made in one system can create a cascading effect of unintended consequences in others. As a result, most DC operations suffer from process inefficiencies and productivity bottlenecks — primarily caused by frequent manual interventions and reactive troubleshooting.

Momentum WES from Honeywell Intelligrated offers a robust alternative to these common inefficiencies by leveraging advanced data science techniques to capitalize on opportunities for efficiency in nearly every corner of your DC and provide visibility and insights into the interplay between your automation systems. These powerful tools enable dynamic, real-time “decision intelligence” to achieve optimal execution strategies, from intelligent prioritization that speeds throughput, to labor allocations that maximize productivity, to optimization strategies that can free up as much as 40% more space in high-density storage systems. 

Streamline Your Warehouse

If you missed the live webinar, you can still catch the recording online to learn more about how WES can give you levels of visibility, optimization and control that no other warehouse automation software solution can provide. “Beyond WCS: Achieving Your Full Automation Potential With WES” is available on-demand.

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